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Backstage - Interviews - Michael Jelenic

To get the ball rolling, what upcoming episodes are you most excited about? New episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold have recently begun to air on Cartoon Network, including the highly-anticipated “Chill of the Night” and “The Super-Batman from Planet X,” so which ones are real stand-outs for you?

"Chill" and "Planet X" are both great, in particular because of the stunt casting on both. It's always fun to bring back actors (like Hamill, Conroy, Delany, and Brown) that mean so much to the fans of these types of shows. And since so many people have already managed to check those episodes out, it’s nice to see that both seem to have lived up to their hype.

Another upcoming episode I'm excited about is one featuring the Doom Patrol. I just saw an early cut and loved it. It’s a good example of the different things I think the show does well. I can't talk too much about what else is coming up, but I will say that I think the second season only gets better from here on out. Except one episode... one episode is a little worse. I'm kidding. Well, not really.

Some of the new Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes break away from what the series established early on, such as the dark “Chill of the Night,” or the “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure” episode. Is this done to keep the series fresh or is it a natural progression of the show?

There’s definitely a conscious effort from James Tucker and me to make sure things don’t get stale. One of our rules for the show is that we shouldn't feel like we have to follow any of our rules for the show. The other thing that helps as far as range goes is that James and I are equally comfortable doing comedy or drama. It's unusual to find that sensibility on an action series because whenever there's humor you risk minimizing the threat the heroes face. If that happens the show becomes a parody of itself.

Has working on this series, coming up with story ideas and the like, changed since the show began? Have you fallen into a rhythm when it comes to creating new episodes?

The show only gets easier the more time we spend with it. I agonized over the first six episodes or so because I wasn’t really sure what the show was. Should it be funnier? Should it be darker? Are we destroying everything good about Batman? Even when I look back at the first episode I wrote for the show I'm like, “Boy, that sucked.” Batman’s dialogue is all wrong. There's a Saturday morning type lesson that's played way too straight. The list of problems goes on. Now that the characters and the tone have been established this is probably the easiest job I'll ever have.

It’s been referenced that you have a light background when it comes to comic books. How do you cope with that while working on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a show that digs up incredibly obscure characters and references for nearly each episode?

I've found my ignorance is mostly helpfully. As you get more familiar with any character, the iconic things that originally drew you to them fade into the background and you become more interested in minutia. And while that minutia can be great, it probably doesn't connect as well to a wider audience. For instance, a writer who's read every Superman comic might be more likely to tell a story that explores the complex relationship between Lex and Superman, rather over a story about bullets bouncing off his chest and him being able to bend steel. While the former is probably more interesting to longtime fans, the latter is going to appeal to that wider audience and, of course, it's probably what drew the longtime fan to the character in the first place. Since I'm seeing a lot of these characters for the first time, it's the iconic things about them that I'm reacting to and that's where I like to start the story process.

As a follow-up, do you find yourself reading more comics due to your work on the series. If so, any titles in specific?

I do read more comics now. Most of it’s for research so they'll be comics based on whatever character I happen to be working on at the moment. I’m also slowly working my way through those comics people are telling me are “essential.” Morrison’s run on “Animal Man” was something I read for fun and I thought it was great.

Are there any characters you are still hoping to see included in the series that have yet to appear? Any in particular you are hoping for?

I know it's an odd choice, but Jimmy Olsen is probably the character I most want to use that we haven’t yet. I have a take on him that I think is pretty funny, especially in regards to his relationship with Superman.

Acclaim for this series has really picked up, with kudos from countless media outlets and websites. In addition, merchandise for the series (clothes, toys, DVDs, etc.) seems to be pretty hot right now. It is reassuring to see Batman: The Brave and the Bold come out as such a critical and commercial hit?

Absolutely. We felt like we were taking some risks with the material that might not work - at least with older fans. So to see that it clicked with that audience was a huge relief. But on a business level critical praise doesn't really mean much unless the show's also moving merchandise. One of the bigger challenges that we face is in making a show that sells toys without it becoming a "toy show."

As a follow-up, what do you think has garnered the show such a significant audience?

I'd like to think people watch because it's a fun and respectful take that people haven't seen in awhile. But the real reason they watch is probably because we use Detective Chimp.

You worked on Wonder Woman last year with Batman: The Brave and the Bold also in production at the same time. Can you describe how different the production of both series is, as well as the difficulties of working on two vastly different projects?

Wonder Woman actually came between my work on Brave and the Bold and Legion of Super Heroes. Since comedy is what I really wanted to do when I got into writing, I tend to have more fun with material that's trying to make people laugh. But overall the writing process isn’t too different on these projects since I approach everything in more or less the same way. What’s different is the amount of time spent on a DTV versus a series. I worked on Wonder Woman for like two month and was done. But with Batman or any TV series the work is over a much longer period of time so the show is evolving constantly.

To wrap this up, what do we have coming down the road in 2010 for Batman: The Brave and the Bold? Are there any teasers you can drop for episodes currently in production, and perhaps hint to any surprises that are coming down the road?

The show will continue to play around with structure and format. We'll have a couple more musical numbers to look forward to. People will die. More than a couple, in fact. And most exciting to me I managed to convince James to cast one of the comedy heroes from my childhood to play himself. He's absolutely great in what can be considered a pretty off the wall episode, even for us.

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